The Trouble with Compact Crossbows
Here's the fourth release of the week! Enjoy!
"Steady!" Lorist pulled onto his reins and his mount reared backwards with both forelegs in air before landing back down to the wet, grassy ground.
"Let's set up camp further up on the hill. We should be able to reach Baron Shazin's riverside encampment by tomorrow."
It was the 30th day of the 10th month and Baron Shazin had sent a messenger to relay that the rafts have been completed. Ovidis's Thunderbolt Brigade had also arrived at the encampment at the lower stream of Metropoulos River. With the preparations all finished, he asked if Lorist was going to head there soon. If he didn't, the baron was going to have Ovidis launch an attack on the outposts on the other side of the river.
Naturally, Lorist said that he would be going. He was just about to head there to deliver some life jackets to the soldiers there. After all, they were going to battle aboard rafts, and the catapult operators that took lots of resources and time to train would be a huge loss to the house should they drown just like that. That was why it was best to have some precautions in place.
Not only that, Lorist also wanted to escape the commotion back at the dominion, which all started when Lorist made a huge order from the grandmasters, Sid and Fellin, to make a total of 50 thousand compact crossbows for the Mounted Jaegars, with each compact crossbow costing 38 gold Fordes to make.
The price to make one of those was truly staggering. Even the steel ballista cost only 35 gold Fordes to make, yet a small compact crossbow that was far inferior than ballistae in terms of power cost even more. Charade was the first one to object to it, followed by supervisors Spiel and Camorra.
For that matter, they had argued for two whole days. But Lorist still insisted on ordering so many of those compact crossbows, causing the cost of the formation of the Jaegar Legion to be two million gold Fordes above budget. Charade and the two supervisors didn't appreciate Lorist's decision, as was evident from the sour faces they wore.
But that was not the end of it. While the compact crossbows cost a lot to make, the cost of manufacturing the bolts were even more staggering. One gold Forde could only produce 20 of those bolts, with each bolt costing around a large silver. That was the main reason Charade objected to the manufacturing of those crossbows. Even if the cost was high, it was still bearable. But the expendable bolts cost far more than what they were worth!
A legion of Mounted Jaegars had 60 thousand people, split into four divisions, or 20 brigades of three thousand men each. Not counting the carroballista brigade and the logistics unit that includes the coachmen and other miscellaneous helpers, there were at least 40 thousand combatants in the Jaegar Legion. If every one of those men fired one shot with the compact crrossbows, it would be akin to them shooting out two thousand gold Fordes! How was that different from sinking money down the drain? Not taking into account the fact that each user of the compact crossbow had to receive special training, the bolts that were fired were not recoverable for reuse. Charade even estimated the cost of bolts to train an average soldier to use the compact crossbow would amount to 30 to 50 gold Fordes and had objected to the use of that weapon immediately.
Actually, Lorist had a feeling that he messed up the technological tree somehow after making that order. He didn't think that the two grandmasters wouldn't make much progress with firearms in the past two years and instead managed to improve in the art of making crossbows. The compact crossbow was almost like a crossbow gun that had more firepower than an old musket of his previous world.
Crossbows were fundamentally different from longbows. A longbow could loose an arrow that could travel 100 meters in a straight line, and it was known across the continent that an arrow could be fired up to 300 meters away with a parabolic shot. However, Sid later discovered that the most effective range to use longbows was 70 meters. At that distance, only half the bowmen could hit their targets. Given how small they were from a distance, some luck was required to get in a good hit, with the exception of a genius marksman like Josk who could still hit his target all the time even when it was 100 meters from him.
In the battleforce-driven world of Grindia, longbowmen could even use their battleforce to increase the power of their shots. A silver-ranked archer could fire a battleforce-infused arrow through metal or rock, and that was the reason it was hailed as one of the most effective long-range weapons over the millennium. In stark contrast, a crossbow-like weapon had to be cocked and strung and couldn't fire too far away. But the main flaw was the inability for one to infuse battleforce into bolt projectiles. Despite that, it only took three months of training for a crossbowman as opposed to the two years a longbowman would require due to the ease of aiming and accuracy.
The compact crossbow the two grandmasters invented had already surpassed longbows in certain ways. Constructed out of steel and wood, it could be fired at a low angle, and reloading it was easy and quick through the use of a lever mechanism. The lever on the right of the crossbow only had to be pulled to string the bow and make space for the bolt to be loaded before the next shot could be taken. Even though it couldn't quite compare to the rapid-fire capability longbows had, it was far better in comparison to traditional crossbows.
The biggest improvement of these new crossbows were their firing range of 70 to 80 meters. Grandmaster Sid promised that a longbowman and crossbowman firing at each other from that range would see the longbowman lose. That's because a longbowman had to estimate the shot whereas the crossbowman armed with a compact crossbow can aim down the sights to fire at its target.
Other than that, even though the compact crossbows can't fire 300 meters away like longbows can, Grandmaster Sid did manage to include a long distance firing mode in its design. Engraved on the crossbow was a scale diagram that could be used to orient the weapon to an angle which will allow it to fire the projectile in a parabolic arc, allowing the projectile to land as far as 150 meters away, which was ideal for a volley of fire to weed out some enemy numbers.
The compact crossbow bolts were specially made with armor-piercing capabilities as well, with the body of the projectile being half hollow and three small metal fins attached to its back. The fins that would break after one shot was also the reason the bolts couldn't be reused.
Lorist thought back at Yuriy who was completely lovestruck by the new weapon who said, "Milord, if you can arm the Jaegar Legion with these compact crossbows, I promise that they will be able to rival the cavalry legions of House Fisablen within three months."
Perhaps, it was that statement that thoroughly convinced Lorist to make that decision despite the fervent disagreement he faced from Charade and the others. In retrospect, Lorist was regretting his decision slightly as Charade's objections did have quite a bit of merit. So, he requested the grandmasters to modify the prototype of the compact crossbows so that the cost of making them would be below 20 gold Fordes, with the bolts being changed to cost one gold Forde per hundred of them.
While they said that it was possible to do so, it would take at the very least two years. Given that Lorist needed the Mounted Jaegars to gain as much combat capability as they could as soon as possible, as well as how strong the financial situation of the house was, he ordered 50 thousand compact crossbows, including some extra in case any defunct ones needed replacing, much to Charade's anger.
Howard had already set up Lorist's tent as well as some simple bedding. Lorist walked to the side of his bedding and saw Howard preparing tea for him.
"Howard, do you think the order for 50 thousand compact crossbows was a little over the top?"
Surprised and silent for a good moment, Howard said, "Milord, it's not my place to comment about it..."
"Don't worry, just speak your mind. As an outsider, your perspective might provide some much-needed insight."
"Well, how do I say this... Milord, I think you're a little too impatient. I've realized that you seem to be a little hasty these days when it comes to arming the Mounted Jaegars. You're also regarding House Fisablen like they're already our enemy. I feel that to be a little contradictory," said Howard after giving it some good thought.
"Contradictory? Why do you feel that?" asked Lorist as he sat up.
Howard furrowed his brow and explained, "Milord, if you really think that House Fisablen will be our foe, you should stop the military gear agreement you have with them right away. Their preparations will only be complete in the following year when our trade deal concludes, so Duke Fisablen will definitely not declare war against us before that happens. So far, only a third of the deal has been fulfilled. If you really think that Duke Fisablen will become our enemy, you should've stopped the deal with them. That's far more an effective way than arming the Mounted Jaegars is.
"Also, I can understand why Knight Charade and supervisors Spiel and Camorra object so heavily to this. We truly don't lack time right now, so there's no need to make such a huge order that soon. Also, the compact crossbow isn't as perfect as you seem to think it is. Its wire string and specially made metal plates have to be switched out frequently. Not only does that add to the cost, it also increases the usage difficulty.
"Grandmasters Sid and Fellin also mentioned that the tests for this new compact crossbow isn't fully run through yet. There's still much to learn and improve upon. When you made the order for 50 thousand to be produced, both of them turned pale all of a sudden. I suspect that there's no way that they're able to go into mass production yet. I feel that they probably didn't dare to raise any objections when you said that you want to improve the ranged attack capabilities of our troops regardless of the price.
"Also, the special bolt the crossbows will require seems to require hand made tail fins. All 100 of the bolts they brought to the presentation were completely handmade. Think about how much time it would take to make 20 bolts each for 50 thousand compact crossbows. I don't think it's something that can be finished within one year.
"Knight Charade makes a lot of sense when he mentioned the riding bows and normal crossbows that can be used to arm the Mounted Jaegars. The new armor they will be given already puts them a level above normal troops in terms of defense anyway, so even if they're using similar weapons to the enemy, they'll still hold a great advantage over them. There's no need to use such an expensive weapon like the compact crossbows. If you do, your legion should be called the Gold Coin Legion instead of the Jaegar Legion."
Lorist laughed heartily and said, "You're right, I was far too hasty in this matter. Get me a blank paper. I will write Charade and order to cancel the production of the compact crossbows as well as an apology to him and the other two supervisors. It's my inadequacy that caused all of them so much trouble.
"Grandmaster Sid and Grandmaster Fellin will also each receive a thousand gold Fordes as reward for inventing the compact crossbow. At the same time, encourage them to improve the design of the compact crossbow with the aim for mass production in the future.
"I will also write Josk and Yuriy a letter to tell them the reason the house won't be able to supply them with compact crossbows and express my hopes for them to train their troops so that they get up to shape as soon as possible."
"Yes, Milord. I will prepare it immediately," said Howard.
As it was only a temporary campsite, there were no tables, so Lorist had to use a saddle to pen his two letters.
"Howard, you're really maturing fast. I think you'll be able to breakthrough to the silver rank in two years, after which I can draft you into the military for you to gain experience. Do you want to be a brigade commander?" asked Lorist as he wrote.
"Nope. Brother Reidy said that I can train in the Dan Ocean Ki-Refining Technique when I reach the silver rank."
"Oh, you want to learn that as well?"
"That's right, master. I am your disciple as well and will naturally want to learn your ancient eastern combat monk training technique using internal energy. Brother Reidy said that he's incredibly happy to have chosen the path of cultivating internal energy that allowed him to defeat those gold-ranked knights and swordsmen with ease at the knighthood tournament," said Howard enviously.
"Very well. Since you like it that much, I'll teach you the technique of the eastern combat monks."
After deciding on letting Charade handle the matter of the compact crossbows, Lorist took a short nap after he handed the letters to a guard to be delivered. By the time Howard woke him for his meal, the stars had already filled the skies. The sound of an approaching carriage can be heard from the distance. After a while, Count Kenmays's angry complaint could be heard. "Why the heck did you travel so fast? I had to give chase for three whole hours you know! The road was so bumpy that my bum is all numb!"
"It's your fault for traveling in a carriage. The road from here to Metropoulos River is small and not suitable for carriage use. I thought that I could go on for another two hours, but I had to set up camp earlier to wait for you to catch up," returned Lorist the complaint.
Count Kenmays sat down beside Lorist and began drinking the ale in Lorist's cup in huge gulps before he asked Howard to get him a serving of smoked goat. "Fine, I'll travel on horseback tomorrow as well. Who knew that there isn't a path for carriages over here? If I knew better, I wouldn't have to suffer in the carriage. Then again, this ale tastes quite good. It's always best to have ale after a long journey."
"Will the forces of your house be able to arrive at the riverbank today?" asked Lorist.
"Don't worry, they departed ten days ahead of us. I think they'll arrive on time even if they have to crawl their way there. It took us only three days to travel using the small path, so if they don't arrive using the main highway in ten days, I will have to punish them for it. My house doesn't wish for our army to be a bunch of useless goons after all," said Count Kenmays confidently.
"That's true. This is the time for your army and Hennard's to shine. I'm sure the combined cry of 100 thousand troops will make the Madras soldiers on the opposite side of the bank feel the pressure of the incoming conflict and cause them to mobilize the rest of their forces to reinforce the bank. All you have to do is to be as domineering as possible. Make sure to not attack them carelessly to avoid unnecessary sacrifice. All we need is Ovidis's Thunderbolt Brigade to smash them to pieces," warned Lorist.
"No problem. We will just bait them for now. The plan is to go into battle during spring next year after all," said the count as he nodded.
 EDN: I'm assuming these distances are at least partially because of the addition of battleforce. The information I could find on crossbows suggest that whilst arrows could be shot up to 300 metres on practice ranges (in arcs), the combat effective ranges were far shorter. The rigours of repeated firing and of the campaign trail would sap the strength of the archers, lowering their performance. The suggested combat effective range of a standard English longbow is just 180 metres (fired in arc). The achievable distance is also greatly dependent on the material of the bow (which would give it it's draw strength), and the weight and shape of the projectile (in this case the arrow).